Paying for Miracles

I’ve never been comfortable with the concept of connecting monetary contributions with miracles or blessings or inspiration.  This idea seems wrong for several reasons:

  • bad things also happen to people who pay their tithing and make other monetary contributions
  • the concept seems uncomfortably similar to the medieval practice of buying and selling indulgences and
  • it’s seems unlikely that God is stirring the pot as much as some of us might think.

The coupling of monetary contributions and blessings is prevalent in Mormonism today.

According to a personal note by David Tedder published in Sunstone magazine (Dec 2008, p. 5):

When the Stake President sat us down, it wasn’t about “getting out the vote,” knocking on doors, or putting a sign on our lawn [in support of Prop 8].  It was about making a contribution–a rather sizable contribution.  He already had a figure in mind.  Interestingly, my wife and I both heard the figure in our heads before he said it.

The hard part about being asked by the Church to do something like this is, despite free agency, we really don’t say no.  And if we do, we just don’t get it.  So after kneeling in prayer, we mailed a check the next morning for the requested amount.  That same day, a miracle happened for my family which, although I won’t go into it, we believe came as a direct result of our decision. 

This quote makes me extremely uncomfortable.  It is my personal belief that the LDS Church should not have been involved in the Prop 8 election.  Then to assign a miracle to contributing financially to the cause makes me doubly uncomfortable.

Along the same lines, there is a short biographical piece in the recent Ensign magazine (Dec 2011) about President Lorenzo Snow (fifth President of the LDS Church):

Fifth President of the LDS Church: Lorenzo Snow

During President Snow’s time as prophet, Latter-day Saints in southern Utah were suffering from a drought.  While speaking at a conference in the southern Utah town of St. George, President Snow was inspired to promise the Saints that it would rain and they would enjoy a bountiful harvest if they would pay tithing.  Though the members paid their tithing, several months passed without rain.  President Snow implored Heavenly Father to send rain.  Later he received a telegram announcing, “Rain in St. George.”

This episode was captured in a LDS movie titled “The Windows in Heaven.”  At the time when President Snow made his promise in St. George, the LDS Church was deeply in debt.  In 1963, when “Windows” was released, the Church was again in financial trouble.

Also in the Dec 2011 issue of the Ensign is a quote from Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (quoted from an article in the Ensign, May 2004, p. 41):

Do you want the windows of heaven opened to you?  Do you wish to receive blessings so great there is not room enough to receive them?  Always pay your tithing and leave the outcome in the hands of the Lord.”

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2 Responses to Paying for Miracles

  1. jeanikins says:

    One of the bigge$t problems with paying for miracles is that the source of the blessing is unknown, while being attributed to a god. The miracle for which one has paid should be delivered instantly by such a ‘notable, honest deity’ one would think, Most of the time the deity’s ‘handlers’ take the money and spend it on things of their own choosing. A supernatural event such as a miracle should happen without delay or how can one call it a miracle. St. George was almost bound to get rain within a couple of months with or without members paying tithes, yet the faithful will see the rain as evidence that god has blessed them. This is called confirmation bias in other circumstances.
    Prophet says – “Pay tithes – rain will come.”
    Members say – “No rain yet, keep praying and paying and obeying. No rain yet, not praying hard enough, not paying enough, not obeying enough.”
    Weather system moves in; almost bound to drop some rain.
    Members see clouds, pray more fervently; clouds drop rain and the members’ belief in the prophecy is confirmed.
    “God blessed us for paying our tithes.”

    This method also confirms that the people in the Horn of Africa need to pay tithes in order to get through the wicked famine and maybe they would if they had anything to tithe. It confirms that they deserve to die of starvation and gives church members exemption from their worldwide duty to one another – THEY pay their tithes to the church and cannot be expected to pay more. Tithes are not used to help the hungry and helpless though and no miracles are happening in Africa due to the faithfulness of those who DO tithe.

    The miracle is that people who have nothing to gain and no belief in miracles, actually get off their butts and do something to bring about some relief to the world’s suffering population. God and tithes do nothing to help and what does the prophet say to do to help this kind of suffering? “Let’s build a mall, that will make everyone feel better.”

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    I share your concern about Africa. I work in Uganda part-time and greatly enjoy the experience; but it is very depressing. I wish the LDS Church and others would do more to help. I would like to see more money spent on developing-country education and technical training, and less money spent on constructing temples and other buildings. I would like to see members allocate more of their “tithing” money to the Perpetual Education Fund, LDS Humanitarian Services, and Fast Offerings.

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